Krishna Janmashtami is one of the biggest religious festivals in the world. It is an annual commemoration of the birth of Krishna-eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu. Every year, about nine hundred and thirty million people around the world celebrate the fiesta as the day of deep spiritual renewal and festivity. Popularly known as Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Shree Jayanti or Janmashtami, the carnival falls on the eighth day (Astami) of dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) in the month of August/September (Bhadra).
Looking back to the legend of the festival, once Mother Earth was appalled by the number of sins that were being committed on her surface hence, she went to Lord Brahma and pleaded him for help then Brahma appealed to Lord Vishnu. After listening to Brahma, Lord Vishnu decided to take in the form of Krishna in order to promote virtue. During that time, Mathura was in miserable state as Kansa, brother of Devaki, had put his father-King Ugrasen in prison and declared himself the new king. To put an end to his evil rule, Lord Vishnu decided to take birth in the human form as the 8th son of the princess Devaki and her husband Vasudeva.
At the wedding ceremony of Devaki and Vasudeva, there was a divine prophecy which proclaimed that Kansa would be killed by the eighth son of Devaki. To protect himself, Kansa locked the couple into a prison cell and killed all the six infants as soon as they were born. The seventh child (Balram) was saved due to divine intervention, when he was transferred from Devaki’s womb to that of Rohini’s (other wife of Vasudev). As Devaki conceived the eighth child, everything around was imbued with benevolence and majestic beauty. Lord Krishna was born in the divine form with lotus like eyes, his palms bearing the signs of a lotus and adorned with jewels. After his birth at midnight, a chain of events astonished Vasudev. He saw the gates of the cell flow open and all the guards fast asleep so he decided to hand over his child to his friend Nanda in Gokul to save him from the clutch of Kansa. Crossing the River Yamuna, Vasudev reached Nanda’s residence and exchanged his son with Nanda’s daughter. Upon reaching the prison, the door got locked behind him and he was chained again as if nothing happened in between. The guards also woke up and after hearing the cry of the baby, informed Kansa about the birth of the eighth child. Kansa, thinking her to be Devaki’s eighth child, threw her on a stone. But she rose in the air and transformed into Yogmaya (Vishnu’s helper), warned Kansa about his death and then suddenly disappeared. Krishna grew up and finally killed Kansa, putting an end to his evil rule.
On the day of Janmastami, the festivity begins before dawn and continues till midnight, the exact moment of the anniversary of Krishna’s appearance. The celebration includes Rasa Lila (dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna re-creating the flirtatious aspects of Krishna’s youthful days), Dahi Handi (teams of young men form human towers to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it celebrating god’s playful and mischievous side), Kirtan (singing the Lord’s name along with other devotees), Japa (private and intimate prayer) and Abhiseka (immersing of deities with a variety of auspicious liquids in a kind of ablution ceremony). For the whole day devotees are involved in performing drama and dance, cooking a feast of over one hundred dishes, and stringing enormous flower garlands and other decorations for the temple. Most of the devotees fast all day, visit Krishna temples and finally at midnight break their fast by feasting on sweets and delicious dishes prepared especially for the occasion. For the whole night they keep awake and involve themselves in chanting the hymns of Lord Krishna and celebrating his birth.
On this pious day, numerous devotees flock to the ancient Krishna temple in old Patan Durbar Square to keep vigil through the glorious night of his birth. As they sit huddled together their bodies rocking in humble obeisance, the women chant the many names of the Lord,’Narayan, Narayan’ and Gopal, Gopal’. Some sing ancient hymns, others clap their hands, while some pray. Crowds of men and women edge their way slowly up narrow steps through the seated devotees to the temple’s dark interior to where the main idol stands. There they offer flowers, coins and food and wait for a glimpse of Krishna Janmastami festival at Krishna Mandir the idol. After the temple priest gives them ‘prasad’ they make their way down to join the multitude of devotees in the streets.
Lord Krishna is the most adorable and mischievous son, the most romantic lover and the most compassionate friend hence, devotees celebrate all aspects of Lord Krishna be it a lover, son, husband or a sarathi. He is believed to respond to the distinct feelings and desires held most deeply in the heart of every single worshipper who came to earth in order to destroy every kind of sin that was being committed on earth then. Killing his demon uncle Kansa and helping the “Pandavas” for “Dharma Yudha” against “Kauravas”, Lord Krishna propagated the theory of bhakti and good karma.
Krishna Janmastami, dedicated to the most loved and celebrated god of Hinduism, is celebrated with the great devotion and splendor by Hindus all over the world.
Celebrating the Krishna Janmastami, Gaura Parva is yet another festival celebrated on the same day. Especially in far western Nepal Gaura Parva is celebrated with much gusto for two days during August/September. Deuda dance is a major part of the festivities in which participants hold hands and form a circle as they step to traditional music. Specifically in this day women perform offerings to Goddess Gauri and God Maheswore where as Men assist women in putting together all items of offerings, and in performing worship to these deities.
The celebration continues as men participate in dancing, singing and merrymaking on equal footing with women. Women take the fast believing that the deities will bless them with children and happy lives. Men and women spend most of the time during this festival singing rhythmically while performing various religious rituals. So, this festival is also known as the “loli gora” means ‘lyric gora’. Men and women describe the life of Gauri and Maheswore in the songs reflecting the difficult rural lives of women in these regions. They also describe the heroic deeds of main characters mentioned in two Hindu epics: Ramayana and Mahabharata. Recently, young men and women have begun singing amorous songs and ‘dohari’ songs on this occasion. However, parents and guardians are not favoring such songs despite the fact that the young people do not indulge in the corrupt activities. So, youngsters often stay away from their parents and guardians to sing such songs during this occasion.